Monday, 5 October 2009

Corporal Punishment

We’ve all heard stories from our parents. They usually begin with, “Back in the day…,” or “When I was your age…,” and end with a statement about hardships, respect, or my personal favourite, corporal punishment.

First of all, I’ve never been subjected to any form of corporal punishment (at school or at home). I’ve never felt the sting of a wooden spoon, a stick, or belt, but I sure have been entertained on several occasions hearing about the 160 year old nun who mercilessly hit my dads’ hands with a ruler when he was a kid.

Corporal punishment, to me, was something of the past. Something I only heard about in stories and something I never expected to witness. Well, today I got front row seats.

I was walking back to my English room after lunch when I heard yells from a student in the distance. As I got closer, I realized he was crouched over with his hands extended onto the windowsill as a teacher stood over him with a bamboo stick.

My first thought was, “Holy crap. I hope he’s ok.”

I had read about the abundance of corporal punishment in Korea, but I never thought I’d see it with my own eyes. I wasn’t comfortable with this method of punishment, but I certainly wasn’t going to try and tell a Korean teacher to stop.

As I walked past the student, his yells became louder and louder.

When they finally came to an end, he ran past me with a pained look on his face and swerved around the corner in front of me.

When I reached the corner, I was completely shocked with what I found.

He was standing with a group of his friends (who were all laughing hysterically), giving them high-fives, and showing them his reddened knuckles.

It was all an act. The whole thing was an act. The yells, his face, his submissive posture… the whole thing was a show for his friends. And now they were going to spend the rest of their lunch hour laughing about how loudly he yelled, complimenting him on his acting skills, and taking pictures of his knuckles with their cell-phone cameras.

Seeing this “show” made me wonder how many of my dads stories reflected genuine traumatic experiences. If I had to guess, I’d say it was pretty close to 0%.

I’m going to buy a stick.

- Ken


  1. Luckly for Danny mom didn't have a bamboo stick.

  2. Ken - you're all talk...the only mean streak in you is making your brother eat worms when he was little (and pierce holes in the cushy toilet seat!)